- Nov 19, 2010
- Reaction score
- Richmond VA
Vietnam War babies: grown up and low on luck
Vietnam War babies: all grown up | GlobalPost
That, at least, is his contention. Though he has never left Vietnam, speaks no English and lives in a Ho Chi Minh City slum house, where 20 people share an open-air toilet, Dang insists he is American through and through.
I dont belong here, said Dang, born in 1971 during a brief love affair between a nightclub prostitute and a dark-skinned American GI. I belong in America.
If only he can prove it.
Dang is among tens of thousands of children fathered in Vietnam by U.S. troops during the 1965-1973 war. Most were born to absent fathers and mothers who risked Viet Cong wrath by working as housekeepers, vendors or bar girls around U.S. bases.
All these years, I had tried to block out a segment of my life. But you cant do that.
~Army veteran James Copeland, 65There was once great hope for men and women like Dang: an obscure U.S. visa for Vietnamese nationals fathered by GIs. But the allowance for Vietnam AmerAsians, a clunky State Department term for mixed-race children of the war, appears to be fizzling at last.
According to State Department data provided to GlobalPost, the number of approved AmerAsian visas has dwindled to an average of 240 per year in the last decade. Last year, the figure slipped to a new low: 23 admissions.
My life has been miserable, said Dang, who spent part of his childhood in a communist labor camp. Life will still be hard after I move. But I have an American family and we belong in the states.
The AmerAsian visa was created in 1987, when Congress relented to the outcry over urchins with American faces abandoned in the Vietnamese slums. No one knows exactly how many AmerAsians were born in Vietnam, but the U.S. has vetted and resettled nearly 30,000 children of U.S. troops and employees along with nearly 80,000 Vietnamese relatives.
Still, an estimated 1,000-plus AmerAsians remain in Vietnam. Most live in cramped tenements. They are often poorer than the average Vietnamese, their poverty
entrenched by discrimination, their faces bearing the freckles and pastel eyes of men from the worlds most powerful nation yet none of the privileges.
The AmerAsian visa, however, is not dwindling for lack of applicants. Charities devoted to assisting the adult children of GIs insist there is a hundreds-deep backlog of applications. But U.S. consular officers have been hardened by scam artists who see an illiterate half-American as their familys ticket to America.
Children of the enemy
Much has changed since Ho Chi Minhs forces captured Saigon in 1975 and renamed it after their communist revolutionary hero. Having ditched purist Marxism in the 1980s, Vietnams communist rulers now embrace China-style capitalism. Ho Chi Minh City has the buzz of a nation on the make and a taste for iPhones and KFC.
But while the world has moved beyond the war, AmerAsians remain its bitter relic. The childhood torment exacted on half-American kids still defines them. Most remember being thrashed with sticks by kids or sneered at by adult neighbors who called them children of the enemy.
All can recall a signature insult: Americans with 12 assholes. The slur rhymes in Vietnamese.
They loved to chant that at us, said Nguyen Thi Phan, born in 1968 to a base security officer and the woman who washed his clothes. The kids would say, Your moms a whore. Your dads black. Why dont you get the hell out of Vietnam? Children of black GIs were doubly mistreated, she said.
Even now, people look at me and say Im dirty. Its hard to get a job because they dont want a dirty-looking person cleaning houses or dishes, she said. They say its bad for business.
Like many AmerAsians, Phan insists she is not Vietnamese. In fact, each of the six Vietnamese children of former U.S. troops interviewed by GlobalPost described themselves as either American or AmerAsian. All bristled at being labelled Vietnamese.
All my life, everyone told me I wasnt Vietnamese. So fine, Phan said. Im not.
To the Vietnamese, AmerAsians are assumed to be the outcome of a paid fling between imperialist grunts and loose, traitorous women.
But according to AmerAsian mothers, many children were born from passionate couplings. The father of Cao Thi My Kieu was so smitten with her mom, a bar girl, that he swept her into a rented apartment and promised shed never need to sell her body again.
She was really pretty during the war, said Kieu, born in 1967 outside a former U.S. air base in coastal Nha Trang. And he was very kind. He took in her three kids from a previous guy. Americans are strange in that way. They will actually raise someone elses kid.
Such domestic arrangements were common, according to Robert McKelvey, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran turned psychiatrist who has studied AmerAsian orphans. Many fell in love, he wrote in a 1998 paper, and lived as de facto spouses for months or years.
Vietnam War babies: all grown up | GlobalPost